Dubai: It is a true honour to have been given the opportunity to lead the ATP during what is unquestionably one of the most exciting periods in the history of this great sport. The 2014 ATP World Tour season has got off to a remarkable start, with a host of storylines already shaping up for a fascinating season.
In the first instance, no player deserves more praise than 2014 Australian Open champion Stanislas Wawrinka — the first player to emerge as a Grand Slam champion outside the ‘Big Four’ of Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Andy Murray and Roger Federer, since Juan Martin del Potro won the US Open back in 2009. Stan’s victory in Melbourne capped off a month in which he also captured the Aircel Chennai Open title in India, as well as receiving the award for 2013 Swiss Personality of the Year — an amazing start to the year for the Swiss who has also risen to No.3 in the Emirates ATP Rankings.
Rafa also deserves special praise. The ATP World No.1, who came into Melbourne having captured the Qatar ExxonMobil Open in Doha, was hampered by a back injury during the final. The way he endeavoured to finish the match, for himself, his opponent, and the fans, only confirmed what we have known for a long time — Rafa is a class act, and an absolute credit to our sport. We wish him a quick recovery and a return to action at the upcoming ATP events in South America.
The start of the season has also been fascinating from a coaching point of view, with many former greats, such as Boris Becker, Stefan Edberg and Michael Chang teaming up with the current greats to provide an intriguing additional dynamic to the season. We need to do everything we can to keep former players in the game, so it has been great to have these legends involved in the ATP World Tour again.
Many people have been saying that this is a golden era in men’s professional tennis for several years now, and that continues to be the case. In terms of the players, I think it comes down to the personalities and the product on court. When you combine those two factors, the current generation offers something undeniably special and unique. We have incredible depth of talent, and a truly global footprint with 61 tournaments in 30 countries across six continents — we are in a very good place as a sport.
In business terms, the impact of what’s been happening on the court has had an extremely positive knock-on effect away from the court — we have more fans than ever, with a record 4.47m fans attending ATP World Tour events in 2013; our television audience has grown 75 per cent since 2007 with a record 838m people tuning into the Tour last season; and our sponsorship revenues have grown 200 per cent since 2009.
I have enjoyed my first month in my new role as ATP Executive Chairman & President, and have spent a huge amount of time in these first weeks gathering input from players, tournament directors, media, sponsors, and fans. I am very excited about the opportunities that lie ahead.
The challenge for us will be to ensure that we continue the unprecedented growth we’ve seen in recent years, that we look for new and creative ways of engaging with our fans and generating new revenue streams, and that we maintain and grow our market share in an increasingly competitive sports and entertainment landscape.
This year marks an important 25-year milestone for the ATP. In 1988, ATP players, under ATP CEO Hamilton Jordan, held the now-famous “parking lot press conference” at the US Open to announce that they would assume greater control over the future of their sport. Top 100 players signed a letter of support for a new tour within weeks of the news conference while Tournament Directors representing many of the world’s leading events joined the players to form a partnership unique in professional sports — players and tournaments each with an equal say in how their tour is run.
In 1990, the ATP Tour was launched. We have come along a long way over the past 25 years, and I truly believe in the structure of our Tour. We will be recognising this special 25-year milestone through a number of celebratory events throughout the season.
I hope you enjoy the next few months of world class action on the ATP World Tour as the drama unfolds at ATP events across Europe, the Middle East, South America and North America.
– The writer is the Executive Chairman & President of ATP